Canada Is Making Strides In Meetings & Conventions

Peter Johansen

Chantal Sturk-Nadeau

If Chantal Sturk-Nadeau has her way, a lot more of your clients will be attending international conferences right here at home. She’s executive director of Business Events Canada, a division of Destination Canada that’s charged with promoting Canada as a top choice for meetings, conventions and incentive business within a worldwide industry worth $1 trillion.

Sturk-Nadeau told a session of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) on Tuesday that Canada is increasingly attracting major international events. She noted that Montreal has been named the #1 event destination in the Americas, Toronto hosted a record number of conventions this past year, and even smaller centres like Saskatoon and Waterloo have attracted huge meetings in science, technology and health.

Her agency coordinates efforts with local economic development agencies, destination marketers, convention centres and federal government officials to bring more meetings here, especially in sectors that align with federal government economic priorities, such as aerospace and health.

She said the benefits go far beyond the economic spinoffs from the meetings themselves. Delegates often stay a few extra days to explore the host area and are often impressed enough to return, while local professionals benefit from the expertise brought by international leaders in their field.  

“This will fuel trade, investment and talent acquisition even when conference delegates leave,” she said.

But while there are many clear benefits, it’s not clear how travel advisors might fare. On the one hand, they could lose lucrative commissions from long-haul bookings as conferences move closer to home. On the other, more affordable airfare may mean organizations are willing to send more employees, leading to additional bookings.

TIAC has more than 600 members in all sectors of the travel industry, including attractions, convention centres, events, food services, arenas, transportation, travel services, and destination marketing organizations.  The conference was held in Gatineau, QC.

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